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The PEN Community calls for a Peaceful Resolution of the Current Crisis in Ukraine

Wednesday 5 March 2014 - 6:20pm

PEN International, the Writers for Peace Committee, Polish PEN and Russian PEN have each published statements calling for a peaceful, negotiated solution to Ukraine’s current crisis and for respect for Ukrainian citizens’ rights to free expression, assembly and peace.

Please read these statements below:

PEN International 

We, PEN International, the worldwide association of writers is deeply concerned by the escalating political situation in Ukraine with Russian forces now in de facto control of much of Crimea.

All individuals and peoples have a right to peace, free expression and free assembly. Military action rarely solves conflict, which should instead be resolved by peaceful dialogue and full respect for freedom of expression, in line with the PEN Charter. We urge all sides in the conflict to begin, as a matter of urgency, meaningful discussions towards a peaceful solution which respects the rights of all in Ukraine.

As outlined in PEN International’s Girona Manifesto on Linguistic Rights, respect for all languages and cultures  is fundamental to the process of constructing and maintaining dialogue and peace in the world. [1]   Every linguistic community in Ukraine – whether Ukrainian, Russian or Crimean Tatar - should have the right for its language to be used as an official language in its territory.[2]

Additionally, we call on the governments of Ukraine and the Russian Federation to ensure that freedom of expression and access to information is fully protected.

John Ralston Saul
International President
PEN International

The Writers for Peace Committee

The Writers for Peace Committee (WfPC) of PEN International is deeply concerned by the political crisis, the rise of political passions, intolerance and violence in Ukraine and the disintegration of its unity and sovereignty.

The WfPC calls on all Ukrainian writers and other intellectuals in Ukraine to do everything they can to assert the principles of a democratic dialogue about the situation in and the future of Ukraine.

The Committee calls upon the new government of Ukraine, the leaders of political parties and other interest groups, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and all responsible political and opinion leaders to do everything in their power to calm their people, respecting at the same time freedom of speech and thought, and, above all, to strive for a peaceful dialogue between all political groups in Ukraine. We also urge the Verkhovna Rada to pay special attention to the linguistic rights of those speaking Russian and other languages and the fact that the rights of all ethnical minorities in Ukraine are to be recognized.

The Committee also urges all responsible state representatives in Europe, and particularly in the Russian Federation, not to get involved in conflicts and to avoid any attempt to take advantage of the situation in Ukraine for their own benefit. We strongly appeal to all sides to decline any violence or military intervention. We call upon them to respect the territorial unity and sovereignty of Ukraine, the right of the Ukrainian people to decide their own future and to respect the freedom of expression of all people in Ukraine and in their own countries.

Tone Peršak

Chair of the Writers of Peace Committee

Russian PEN

The Russian PEN centre addresses fellow writers, journalists and bloggers on 3 March, World Writers Day:

During these difficult days - when, at any moment a civil war could start in Ukraine, or a war between Russia and Ukraine, or a war in the centre of Europe, when there is greater aggression in the relationships between nations, states, peoples, persons - the word has extreme power: the word pronounced on TV or in a political meeting, the word printed in a newspaper, the word posted on the internet.

The word can be used for the manipulation of public understanding, for propaganda instead information, as a source of hate. But it can also be used for truth, understanding and positive thinking.

In the history of our country there are too many examples of how state propaganda poisoned the thinking of our citizens and led to the deaths of millions of our people and people from other countries.

Now, we face a similar danger. We see around us a a crisis of language which was described by Orwell. Such words as peace, war, fascism and democracy, protections and invasion are shamelessly misused.

Lies add the illusion of legality to actions, which are not legal. And each of us is personally responsible - before history and before him/her self, for everything he or she is says or writes today.

Polish PEN

The Polish PEN Club strongly protests the Russian Federation's invasion of the territory of Ukraine.

We are warning the public about the nature and scope of the current events.

We support the stand of the authorities of the Republic of Poland who indicate that the objective of the aggression is to dismantle the existing international order. This order is based on the principles of the United Nations Charter, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, agreements of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the entire system of legal treaties and conventions which govern inter-state relations.

We oppose the provocative and ostentatiously mendacious war propaganda that has been set in motion on a mass scale with the aim of concealing the aggressor's actions and intentions.

We express our solidarity with Ukrainians who are defending the independence and unity of their own country.

In line with the principles of the International PEN Charter: "Members of PEN should at all times use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect among nations; they pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class, and national hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in the world. […] Members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood, and distortion of facts for political and personal ends".